Contributed by “The Ed”
There is a reason why the founding fathers established a republic rather than a democracy. It boils down to one word: rules – or more specifically, rules for the ruling class. The idea of rules for the ruling class can be traced back to three documents: 1) the Charter of Liberties which, in 1100, formally bound King Henry I to the law; 2) the Magna Carta (Great Charter), enforced on King John in 1215 because of abuses that led to a revolt of the English nobility;
and later 3) the American Constitution crafted in 1787 to keep the ruling class of the United States under control with its checks, balances, and limits on government power.
It is said that when Benjamin Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention upon completion in 1787, he was asked by a group of concerned citizens what sort of government the delegates had created. He is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Language changes over time
When I look up republic in Webster’s Online Dictionary there are several definitions. None of them fit what should be our government, but this is the closest one:
Republic: a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.
It does not fit because it implies that the body of citizens entitled to vote is a select group. It is not a select group. The part about “elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law” fits our situation, but it is not complete. It says nothing about the fact that there has to be overriding law that is not to be breached. It does not discuss the fact that the elected officers and representatives must abide by the laws that they pass for the rest of the citizenry.
The founding fathers recognized that democracy would not guarantee the rights of the individual. In a pure democracy 51% could take away the rights of the rest. Corrupt officials could do as they like. Okay, that still happens, but with the Constitution there are limits.
When the elite put themselves above the rules
It is not hard to understand what happens if those limits recede. Just look at Germany during WWII. It was a slow decline. First, the Jews were confined to their ghettos. Their property was confiscated. They eventually were deported to work camps that turned them into slaves for the state, and finally the slave camps turned into death camps. This did not happen overnight. It took years to develop. Just how far should a government be allowed to go? If the U.S. Constitution is respected, our government could not even take the first step. Conversely and more importantly, something like 1930s Germany can happen if the Constitution is gradually ignored. Hitler suspended the Weimar Republic’s constitution. The actions of the Nazi party had already violated the German Constitution. The suspension only made it “legal.” It suddenly became clear that Hitler was not one of the little people he had pretended to be during his ascension.
We are seeing the same thing here in the U.S., albeit not on the scale of Hitler’s Germany. In 1992, the Republican Party swept both the House and the Senate on the promise of changes. They instituted the Contract With America. The first provision said that Congress must abide by the same laws that they passed for the rest of us. In 1995, Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act. This gave a long list of laws that Congress would have to follow along with the rest of us.
In 2012, there was a public outcry about the fact that Congress could trade stocks using their insider information. Congress passed the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” bill in 2012. Yet last month, they quietly repealed it.
Why are any of these contracts, acts, and laws necessary? Because our overlords periodically decide that they are no longer one of the little people. The lure of elite power is intoxicating – like political catnip.
On October 22, 2009 Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was asked where the authority to mandate health insurance comes from in the Constitution. His reply was “We have plenty of authority. Are you saying there is no authority? … Why would you say there is no authority? I mean, there’s no question there’s authority. Nobody questions that.”
It was a good question. Did Senator Leahy or any of the other Senators know where the Constitution allows mandated health insurance? In a Republic the question of authority under the Constitution should be paramount. Mr. Leahy, if you can’t name the authority then you did not consider the Constitution when you voted for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is the very same Constitution that you swore to uphold when you were elected to public office. Apparently that oath meant nothing to you.
So who are the little people?
I want to live in a true Republic. I want my government to follow its Constitution. I want my Congress to know that when they vote for a law it is expected to be found constitutional because they performed due diligence. I want my Congress to know what they are voting for. I want my government and its officials to live under the same laws that Congress passes for the rest of us. I want our government officials to recognize that each of them is one of us, the little people.